There are vast choices of personal cafe’ systems available today to American consumers. Such myriad of possibilities can confuse potential buyers who need to consider trade-offs and values they are acquiring. This article attempts to make a simple differentiation among the single-cup brewer choices.
We see the ubiquitous Keurig k-cup brewers in most homes today. Such brewing design is replicated by Cuisinart, Mr.Coffee and Breville. This group of single-cup brewers provide convenience and choice of flavors in the common k-cup capsule that are used to produce a cup of coffee, tea and other beverages. The core technology of k-cup group is based on low pressure pump and relatively good temperature controls.
Promising to do one better than k-cup brewers is the Tassimo T-disc brewer which also uses low-to-high pressure and good temperature control. There are T-discs available with milk discs, besides numerous coffee discs, which is heated into hot milk when brewed. This is a more convenient approximation for cappuccino and latte at a severe cup cost of nearly two dollars. Keep in mind that the real goodness of cappuccino and latte comes from steamed fresh milk, not heated milk. (Steaming fresh milk changes the structure of proteins which makes the beverage taste sweeter and feel smoother).
Of course, the market is flooded with low cost espresso makers which are equipped with high pressure pump and milk steamer. Notable makers of entry level machines are Krups and Breville vs DeLonghi-What is the difference?. But they are weak on water temperature control in the $100 to $200 range. The reason why entry level espresso makers fall short of producing rich espresso crema (or the desireble golden foam on top of the beverage) is that water temperature is not regulated at optimal 185 degree F. For those of us in search of the highest crema rendition, we look so intently for this visual because this is confirmation that the best oils have been extracted from coffee.
The happy medium in single cup brewers for personal use is a three-in-one pod brewing system, one that has a capacity for espresso, regular coffee and milk steaming. Why pod based brewers in the first place? The pod format has two major and distinct advantages over the K-capsules and T-discs. Pods come in individual packets that are nitrogen displaced. To keep coffee freshness for over a year, oxygen and moisture which make coffee turn rancid in as little as month after roasting have to be displaced by an inert atmospheric gas like nitrogen. The other benefit derived from the pod is the filter paper surrounding the coffee disk. Brewing coffee without paper filter can allow harmful chemical called cafestol into the beverage.
Sources for pods are are actually more plentiful than those of K-cups and T-discs. Brand names include Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Illy, Wulfgand Puck and many others. HealthCAFE, a lesser know champion of the pod, has taken the filtered disk portion to another level by introducing HealthBLEND coffee pod. Organic coffee is infused with herbs to render taste, aroma and wellness in a coffee single cup.